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November 3, 2023

China in the 1870s Through Thomas Child’s Lens

Thomas Child (1841–1898) was born in Madeley (Shropshire, England). In 1870, he moved with his wife and children to Beijing, where he worked until 1889 as a gas engineer for the Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs.

Child was not a professional but a keen amateur photographer. Disinclined to document local life, he dedicated most of his attention to traditional architecture and monuments. His peregrinations through Beijing and its surroundings led him to northern sites such as the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan), the Great Wall and the Ming tombs.

Albeit being an amateur photographer, his photographs were sold commercially and found their way into private albums and publications well into the twentieth century. Their wide diffusion gradually shaped China’s image in foreign eyes.

These amazing photos were taken by Thomas Child that show life of China (mostly Beijing) in the 1870s.

An audience with the Tongzhi Emperor, in Tse Kuang Ko, Beijing, June 29, 1873 

Bronze armillary, Beijing Observatory, 1875

Gate tower of Qianmen and city walls, Beijing, 1875

Observatory, Beijing, circa 1875

Northern moat of the Forbidden City, Dagaoxuan Hall or Temple (大高玄殿) and Coal Hill, Beijing, 1876

Ancient arch at Juyongguan, north of Beijing, 1877

Mandarin's sedan chair, outside the Pavilion of the Minister of Spain, Beijing, 1877

Marco Polo Bridge (Lugou Qiao), Beijing, 1877

Ruins of Xieqiqu, Yuanming Yuan (圆明园), Beijing, pillaged and burnt down by European soldiers, 1877

The Great Wall of China at Badaling, 1877

The Great Wall of China, Nankou Pass, 1877

Tsungli Yamen (Chinese 'foreign office'), Beijing, 1878

Bride and groom. The bride is the granddaughter of Zeng Goufan, a high-ranking Han Chinese official, circa 1870s

Marble Pond, The Hall of Classics, Guozijian, Beijing, circa 1870s

Market by Dongsi Pailou, Beijing, circa 1870s

Mongolian lama, circa 1870s

Mule litter, circa 1870s

North wall and moat, Inner City (Tartar City), Beijing, circa 1870s

Shops in a Beijing street, circa 1870s

Temple of Confucius, Beijing, circa 1870s

The Jade Belt Bridge (or Moon Bridge) in the Summer palace, Beijing, circa 1870s

The marble boat at the Summer Palace in Beijing, circa 1870s

The Princes Porch, a long-since-destroyed architectural relic at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, circa 1870s

View towards the Inner City, of Hatamen Street, from Chongwenmen (崇文門), Beijing , circa 1870s


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